book thoughts: The Unwritten by Mike Carey

At first, it’s easy to dismiss ‘The Unwritten’ as a massive mocking of Harry Potter and it’s fandom.  The story opens with Tom Taylor signing copies of the 13th book in the Tommy Taylor series, written by his father, at a fantasy convention.  But then things start to get weird…people begin to address Tom as though he was the fictional character, during one of the panel sessions a women claims that Tom has no birth record.  And then we see the meeting of two mysterious men, hidden in shadow, discussing some dark mission.

I don’t want to say too much about the story because it was watching it unfold that made this first volume so hard to put down.  It did not go where I was expecting and I’m still not sure what it’s all leading up to.  There are references to pop culture and literary fiction all mixed together. 

Just do yourself a favor and pick this one up.  Even if you’re not into comic books, this one is worth a look.  Can’t wait to read Volume 2!

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book thoughts: The Underland Chronicles by Suzanne Collins

Just finished off this five book series tonight, the first series written by Suzanne Collins, the author who is in the spotlight for her current series, The Hunger Games. 

The Underland Chronicles is the story of Gregor, your average, everyday 12 year old.  He lives in New York City with his family.  They are crammed into a tiny apartment together but they are happy.  Then one day Gregor’s 2-year old sister “Boots” falls down a vent in the laundry room and Gregor goes in after her.  But the vent doesn’t lead to a tunnel, instead it’s a giant hole and the two fall into The Underland. 

The Underland is inhabited by humans, giant bats, giant rats, giant cockroaches, and more.  Gregor is quickly pulled into the human’s city and told of a prophecy that foretold his arrival and is proclaimed a warrior.  Gregor isn’t so sure about the whole thing until he finds out that his father, who has been missing for years and presumed dead, maybe be alive in the Underland.  He sets out on a quest in the first book to find his father, but this one simple quest sets off a chain of events that will take over Gregor’s life for the next year or so. 

Even though you will most likely find these books tucked away in the Children’s Department, Collins writing is not childish.  She takes Gregor from wide-eyed boy to battle hardened warrior.  What starts as a simple quest story turns into a discussion of war and morality and how our actions effect everyone.  Deep stuff?  Yes, but if a kid reads this, it might help them understand all the mess they see on the news every day.  It will foster discussion.  And the end of the series is so satisfying – an epic battle and tough decisions.  It was how I wanted Harry Potter to end — Collins does not make everything sunshine and roses at the end of any of the books, especially the last one. 

I would give this to any kid that enjoyed the ‘Percy Jackson’ books and is looking for another heroic series (I think they are better than Percy but that’s just me…). 

Collins takes Gregor and his family on a wild ride and amazing adventures, but they do not leave the world unscathed and it’s that honest portrayal that readers of all ages will appreciate. 

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